Heritage Bulletin blog
The Heritage Bulletin Blog ran from July 2012 to January 2020, covering a huge range of subjects, from a day in the archives, to extracts from the WVS bulletins, and histories of various WVS/WRVS services.
It’s 219 articles have become a valuable resource in themselves, why not search them or just browse to discover something new.
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Hello I'm Elaine and I have just joined as volunteer here at the Archive & Heritage Collection. This is my introductory challenge, researching Clothing Stores in my local town of Swindon. I hope you enjoy reading it ...
By the late 1950s the WVS had
become experts in dealing with the provision of clothing in times of crisis.
This was not surprising given the extensive experience that had been gained in
the distribution and handling of garments during the war when, “at a conservative
estimate, fifty million garments were sorted and distributed” to those who had
been evacuated and bombed out, and who were left with literally nothing. This
meant that often items had to be sourced from areas unaffected by the bombs,
transported, sorted and then distributed according to need. It had been a huge
undertaking that had required considerable organisational skills.
As the war came to an end however,
the need for the WVS clothing services did not diminish, with garments urgently
needed in liberated Europe. This was followed a decade later by the Hungarian
crisis, and again in April 1959 when an appeal from the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency in Beirut resulted in the WVS collecting, sorting and bundling
1,000 tons of processed clothing – that’s 2,548,997 garments - to help refugees
in Lebanon, Jordan, Gazza and Syria.
Following the press appeal for
clothing donations by Lady Reading at the beginning of November 1959, Miss
Honeychurch, a reporter from the Wiltshire Evening Advertiser paid a visit to
the Swindon branch of the WVS on Victoria Road. She was astonished by the
amount of work that the WVS continued to do several years after the end of the
war, and following the establishment of the Welfare State. In her report she
emphasised how in addition to international appeals the local office provided
vital practical assistance to many of the town’s residents in their times of need.
It was particularly important for the provision of clothing and Swindon was consequently
“one of the busiest centres in the whole region” for this form of help.
Swindon was a new industrial town
with a rapidly expanding population, to which people often came with little as
they searched for work. Like elsewhere in the country, the WVS clothing service
was also used by single parent families, the elderly, those who had been struck
by illness or by those who had suffered a disaster such as a fire or a flood. All
were identified as having a chronic need and had been given a certificate from
a doctor, N.S.P.C.C worker, or other professional before attending the WVS. As
a result whole families, often with a large number of children, would often be
completely re-clothed, and in some instances this would occur twice a year.
To give this some scale, in the
month that Miss Honeychurch visited the office in Swindon, a total of 28
families were helped with at least 51 children included. This was in addition
to the previous 114 families that had been assisted in the preceding months of
All this meant that there was
often great pressure upon the service in Swindon and the local WVS Secretary,
Mrs Grundy, emphasised to Miss Honeychurch, the on-going need for donations of good
quality clothing from the public, “We never have enough clothing. We have great
difficulty getting sufficient for our needs.”
As a result they often held ‘make
and mend’ sessions where garments that were not of sufficient quality for
immediate distribution could be re-made into other items. Old fashioned white
nighties for example could be skilfully transformed into pillow cases,
petticoats, knickers, and hankies! However, when demand outstripped the
resources available in Swindon, requests for garments often had to be made to the
clothing centre at Corsham.
Corsham was also one of the
centres where the refugee clothing was held before shipping, and despite the
enormous pressure on the home front in Swindon they were pleased to report in
December 1959, that they had been able to send a full van, with several bales
of refugee clothing to Corsham. All on top of clothing a further 29 local
While this is a very modern collection there is still an
amazing variety of material held within the store rooms. On several occasions
in the recent past I have come across an assortment of maps from those detailing
the different regional boundaries of the WVS Regions to a hand drawn map of
Cardiff showing the locations of Lunch Clubs. This week I’d like to take you on
a journey using this iconography to explain what they tell us about Royal
Voluntary Service and how maps can be used to complement other historical
Inside the Roll of Honour is a beautifully illustrated map of the British Isles divided
into the 12 WVS Regions created for the purpose of Civil Defence. Neatly written on each region is the location
of the Regional Office including among others Edinburgh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
Nottingham, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff. However it doesn’t tell us the individual
centres, we must rely on the Narrative Reports and the Statistic Books
1943-1945 to give us this information. The map allows us to visualise their
location within the organisational structure of WVS during the War. It also
tells us that at some point after the War there was a change to the organisational
structure, Region 5 (London) became Region 12 (Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex
and Surrey) because although on the Map London is Region 5 in the Narrative Report Series it comes under Region 12. Unfortunately we don’t know when this
happened and there are no more maps for this time period however we can show you
other changes in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1974 the WRVS reorganised itself along Local Authority County
boundaries and setup district offices replacing some of the centres or making
them into local offices. However, a few years earlier Cardiff WRVS decided to
have its own reorganisation as demonstrated in the hand drawn map accompanying this
article. In 1969 the city was divided into six areas where WRVS volunteers
would work with other local organisations to run services for older people. The
map shows that there is an all-day centre in each division providing a base for
the area organisers. It also shows where Social Clubs, Lunch Clubs and Old People’s Homes were based within the different divisions. It also gives us an
idea of the area run by Cardiff WRVS and where the volunteers were working. Although
we might have to compare it with an official map or the rest of the Regional
office papers it lives with to find the names of the places and services but
what it does show is how much effort volunteers put into their services and the
different ways they visualised their organisation.
In 2012 another map made its way into are collection all be
it on an unusual canvas; a hand painted china plate by Muriel Humphrey. It was
presented to Lady Elizabeth Toulson on her visit to Cambridge in 1994. It
depicts the different services including: toy libraries; hospital trolley shops; clothing and Meals on Wheels. In the centre is a map of Cambridgeshire in the Home
Counties Division which was created in 1980 to align with changes to Local Authorities.
Other maps in the collection show these new divisions and areas for the whole
of Britain. These new divisions replaced the regions mentioned above moving
from twelve to nine: North West, North East, Midlands, Home Counties, South East,
South West, London, Scotland and Wales. Using both maps and the Narrative
Reports helped me to work out the plate which in its small map outlines five
districts within Cambridgeshire part of Area 1 in the Home Counties. The
districts are Peterborough, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire
and Huntingdonshire. The city of Cambridge is also included and slightly
Sadly our journey, traversing the maps of the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection is over. I trust that I have
shed light on how important these alternative drawings of our nation are in telling
the story of an organisation in a very visual sense. Hopefully you will
continue your journey to learn more about the history of Royal Voluntary
Service by regularly visiting this blog until next week adjure.
There are two ways the blog could have gone this week instead I thought I would try and cover both elements in the title as we haven’t really looked either of them before. Let’s start with Pies ...
23 January is National Pie Day, why not celebrate by making a ham and egg pie from this wartime recipe.
Ham and Egg Pie
1 good slice chopped raw ham 1/2lb
short crust pastry
2 dried eggs, reconstituted 1
Salt and pepper
Line a plate with pastry, trim
and decorate the edges. Put on the chapped ham. Beat the egg well, season, and
pour over the ham. Decorate with tomato slices. Bake in hot oven 20-20 minutes
(Regulo Mark 7). Reduce the heat when the pastry begins to brown and allow the custard
to cook slowly.
Food Advisory Bureau 1943 , WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/F-43-003
WVS did not just suggest recipes for pies while many ingredients were rationed, they also ran the Rural Pie Scheme. Millions of pies and snacks were distributed to agricultural workers during the war to around 2750 villages each month from 1941-1945. The scheme was first introduced in Cambridge by WVS volunteers who wanted to help agricultural workers because they were on rations and in need of a good midday meal, so they started with meat pies. The Scheme was soon picked up by the Ministry of Food and spread all over the country, in some areas the WI was also involved. Often pies were distributed by a WVS driver from a depot or they were homemade by volunteers. Pies were delivered in many different ways, in Frodsham Cheshire for example the WVS trekked across the Marshes to provide pies to farmers; in Kent they were delivered in a mobile canteen to Hop pickers. Though some, as in the image above with two Land Girls, recieved their pies by tricycle. So while you enjoy your pie remember the hard work of the WVS to feed a nation.
If poetry is more your thing you may be partaking in a Burns Super this week; Burns Night on 25th January a celebration of the Life and Poetry of Robert Burns, WVS/WRVS volunteers were very fond of poetry as well as writing their own on the back of Narrative Reports, some were sent in to the Bulletin or even received from those who had benefited from services provided by the organisation. This is one of my favourites about the One-in-Five Scheme, perhaps you will be inspired to write a poem about Royal Voluntary Service.
“Gather your hearers while you may,
Old time is still a-flying
If you don’t get them day by day,
You’ll be forever trying
For you, unless you look alive
And have your talks in plenty,
Will never get your One-in-Five,
Or even one in twenty!
So be not coy, but do your best
Your backlog to diminish,
For if you once should lose your zest
You’ll never, never finish.”
WVS Bulletin, One-In-Five, June 1962, p.14
This year we will be following the adventures of Miss Yellowly and her fellow Services Welfare Members in the South East Asia Command (SEAC). Look out for our regular installments each month. This week we start at the beginning with her journey from London to boarding the Mauretania in October 1945.
"Today the 20th Oct 1945. Sue Dorothy and baby
came to London (Euston Station) to wave me off. All the girls and myself were
thrilled to bits and very excited. We left Euston Station about 11am hardly
realising we were off. Arrived at Liverpool 3.40pm and boarded the bus for the
docks. We were all amazed to see the Mauretania in the dock and to know we
would be sailing on it. After seeing customs etc. we boarded the Mauretania and
what a moment, my cabin was on the main deck and I shared it with Nom Dewey,
Clare Chamberlain and Mrs Cranston, we are very comfortable. After a clean-up
we went out investigating walking around the decks and chatting to the soldiers.
There are about 6000 troops on board including about 60 girls. We had a lovely
dinner, pea soup, lamb, vegetables, fruit salad, rolls plenty of butter, coffee
or tea and I’m sure we all felt better after the meal. After dinner we went
into the lounge and wrote some letter cards and had another stroll around until
I slept like a log until 6 o’clock Sunday morning. We pushed
off 9 o’clock, we were in our own cabins and everything was so calm we didn’t
realise we were moving. We went on deck and it was a queer feel[ing] when I thought
of leaving England behind. We strolled about all day and in the evening there
was a concert given by local talent, it was funny seeing everybody sitting on
the prom deck on their lifebelts what a crowd, the concert was good and we
enjoyed it very much. By 10 o’clock at night we were beginning to rock, we are
now in the Bay of Biscay, I had a cup of tea (which was quite the wrong thing
to take) and when I got to my cabin I was very sick indeed ..."
We will re-join Miss Yellowly next month as the ship
approaches the Suez Canal as she and her fellow WVS members' journey to the SEAC.
Another year has come and gone and we now move into 1950 (in the Bulletin
) to take a look at, what was for the WVS, the usual, the unusual but never the mundane. We don't include every story so why not have a look at issue no 121 January 1950 on our archive online.
- A request for a dozen cuddly toys for Polish children was answered by a member who has four small children. A parcel was despatched next day.
- A Home Help, nicknamed the "Pied Piper " because of the many children she looks after, is giving a party for 20 of her past and present charges.
- An aged and garrulous caller caused temporary bewilderment by saying that her daughter, who went to work each day, left her a 'carrisole.' When the old lady said she was learning to cook one herself it was realised that she meant 'Casserole.'
- Every third Friday a tea party is held for all sightless people in the area, numbering between thirty and thirty-six. They come with their guides.
- An 'Open Air School ' to which W.V.S. sent American Seeds, grew a pumpkin weighing 21 lbs. It was 40 inches in circumference.
-During the National Savings Campaign week five W.V.S. members went to the Docks on pay day. They were well received and 36 new members of the National Savings Group were signed up.
- While driving a patient to hospital a Hospital Car Service driver noticed a cow which had just calved. The driver deposited her patient, and returned to find the mother and child still alone looking very cold and forlorn. She called at the farmhouse and informed the farmer, who was most grateful. He said that the event had happened much earlier than was expected and the observation and quick action of W.V.S. had been a godsend.
- An old lady who had been in hospital for 50 years received flowers from the W.V.S. Office, a plant from the Trolley Shop and a basket of fruit from St. Helen's Darby and Joan Club. A call from the same hospital on behalf of an old man who was well enough to go home but could not get the people at his lodgings to bring his clothes, was answered by a member who went and collected them for him.
-The manager of the local cinema has extended an invitation to all Darbys and Joans to attend his cinema, free of charge, on their respective birthdays and wedding anniversaries. An arrangement has also been made by him to collect and return them to their homes by taxi at the cinema's expense. Each member is allowed to take a friend.
- A party of 20 Polish women and 20 children, including 4 babies under 6 months, arrived at Oxford after a long journey from the North of England on the way to Fairford. They had two hours to wait and W.V.S. served them with tea and buns, and supervised washing facilities. The Station Master was helpful, allowing them to use a Church Army Hut in the Station Approaches and arranging with the Refreshment Room to supply tea, milk and hot and cold water. None of the women spoke English but they had no difficulty in conveying their gratitude.
- In three Darby and Joan Clubs, Health Visitors are to be on duty once a month to answer old people's health problems. If anything serious is mentioned they will be advised to go to their Doctor, but the Health Visitor will advise on such troubles as sleepless nights and indigestion.
- W.V.S. asked eight councillors whether they would like to form a rota and be available at the W.V.S. Office once a month to interview members of the public and this was agreed. The local press were notified that the service is available.
Happy New Year from the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection
During the war WVS ran/organised a number of services and activities for children. We mentioned one of these services in a previous blog Tales of under-fives nurseries were
authors had written about their experience when visiting the nurseries.
WVS always strove to make children’s lives a happy one
during the War particularly when it came to providing toys. In the 1944 December Bulletin this article appeared:
TOY MAKING IN A VILLAGE
FROM the early months of the war our W.V.S. working party had knitted every kind of comforts for the Services and Merchant Navy. We had also sewn all sorts of garments for evacuees, but making toys we had never even thought of, and when the appeal came for soft toys for the new day nurseries, we felt rather dubious as to our capabilities in this direction; however, we said we could but try. To commence, patterns, materials and a demonstrator were sent to our village from the County Office, and we were duly launched as toy makers. Dolls were our first efforts; the bodies and clothes were simple, but the painting of their blank faces was a real work of art. We all tried our skill and the results caused much amusement. We decided we could not send out dolls dressed like a six-year-old with an expression of eighty years old, so this job was given to the one person who seemed able to paint the right look. After the dolls we became more ambitious and begged all kinds of materials to make various animals. From old grey flannels we made elephants and donkeys, and from the bits little mice with hairs pulled out of an old brush for their whiskers. Bits of fur were used to make cats and dogs, white felt hats made beautiful polar bears, even an old silk hat was trimmed into a seal. Woollen materials of the appropriate shades were used for giraffes, their spots being embroidered in brown wool. Horses had fur manes and tails, dozens of little rabbits, some sitting, were made out of real scraps of material, and lambs from old Turkish towelling. Besides the recognisable animals we produced a large number of cuddly soft toys which, we hope, though unlike any known species of animals, will be loved by and give pleasure to the little ones they were made for by the novices of our W.V.S. working party.
As is evident from the above article presents and toys
were already being made and collected by WVS but the organisation also encouraged people, even those without
carpentry skills to make toys themselves in a booklet produced in 1941 and
reprinted in 1944, WVS GUIDE TO SIMPLE TOYMAKING FOR WAR-TIME DAY NURSERIES.
Like the Elves who work in Father Christmas’ work shop the WVS were busy making
toys here are just a few examples:
“Clothes pegs painted to represent funny men in variously
coloured clothes. These are fitted by the children on to the open end of a tin
which has been attractively painted e.g. as the funny men’s house.”
“Bobbin Toy, a solid base, square or oblong. Uprights on to
which bobbins will slip easily (e.g. meat skewers) should be glued firmly into
the base, and coloured to match its bobbins e.g. red stick red bobbins, green
stick green bobbins etc. The whole can be mounted on bobbin wheels and a hook
screwed in front of the drawing it along. Or using pegs of different lengths,
this can be made into a counting toy, putting one bobbin on the first peg, 2 on
the second (of the same colour) and so on –up to five or six.”
“Mosaics, these may be either loose pieces of different
shapes (squares and half squares of different colours are best), which can be
freely used for pattern making, or pieces which make a definite pattern, and
fit into a tray. Plywood should be used for pieces, but the tray may be made of
Perhaps you will be inspired to make some toys for next Christmas.
More news from around the country, originally these stories were submitted by Centre Organisers on the back of the Narrative Reports and selected by the editors of the Bulletin for publication. These are just a few activities from December 1949.
GLASGOW - The mobile canteen lent by Scottish Headquarters
was taken inside the Customs barrier at the docks for the sailing of the
emigrant ship Cameronia. The canteen operated for many hours, serving not only
those going abroad but also friends who had come to see them off. W.V.S.
escorts at the station were on duty from early morning until late afternoon.
HAMPSHIRE COUNTY - Services Welfare, An ex-regular soldier
of the Indian Army telephoned an urgent request for help. He explained that,
with his family, he was to have embarked for Australia within the next few
days. His wife had that morning been admitted to hospital, could we find
someone to care for the triplets aged 3 years, in order that he could get to
London and cancel all his arrangements with the Emigration Authorities? A
member came to the rescue and undertook the care of the three boys.
HORNCHURCH - This locality is fortunate in having a landmark
in a windmill over 160 years old. Up to 20 years ago it was owned by a baker
who milled his own flour, but it was neglected during the war and has been
falling with slow decay. Now, through the interest of the Ancient Order of
Preservation of Windmills Society and Essex County Council, voluntary workers
go every weekend to restore the windmill to working order. W.V.S. supplies teas
to the volunteers and hopes to make a profit on the transaction. This profit
will become a donation to the Windmill Fund.
NOTTINGHAM C.B - A message was received one day that a young
German boy from Bremen was arriving the next night at Fenchurch Street Station.
Could W.V.S. meet, feed and escort him to the train for Nottingham. London
W.V.S. as always, came to the rescue. The Boat Train was late in arriving;
consequently the Nottingham connection was missed. W.V.S. took the child on a
tour of London, found accommodation for the night and saw him off on the first
train the following morning.
MITCHAM - Dumb Friends League.-W.V.S. have obtained a
regular supply of dog biscuits to be sent through the Dumb Friends League to an
old age pensioner who found it impossible to feed his dog.
RUTLAND COUNTY - The County Organiser walked into the office
one day to be told that she need not worry about the Home Help for Mrs.
So-and-So's baby as it had been cancelled! A Home Help on her first maternity
case told the Organiser when she went along that the family were destitute and
there were no napkins for the baby. A small supply was produced and later one
appeared on the table as a table-cloth. The woman who went in as Home Help came
out as Godmother to the infant.
READING C.B - W.V.S. Children's Specialist in addition to
her other work, devotes Thursday afternoons to the Babies Home at Battle
Hospital and regularly takes the babies out in the large hospital perambulator!
ST. PANCRAS - Fifty-three members from our Kentish Town
Darby and Joan Club were taken by coach one evening to see the “Lights of
Southend." Had tea and cakes at the end of the Pier and arrived home 11.00
WESTON-SUPER-MARE - One afternoon the police rang through to
say that they had two boys aged 15 and 13 at the Station, who had run away from
their home in Bristol on stolen bicycles. They had slept out all night in heavy
rain and were found wandering in Weston soaked through. The police asked
whether we could supply them with clothing. We feel rather proud of the fact
that we fitted them both out with shirts-pants-sports
coats-mackintoshes-pullovers -shoes, and last but not least long trousers.
November 24th will be the last Thursday in the month which in
America means its Thanksgiving. If you don’t know much about this holiday,
apart from what you’ve seen in episodes of Friends and The Big Bang Theory,
don’t worry Issue No.37 of the Bulletin from November 1942 is here to help,
complete with Mock Duck and Mock Goose. If you were looking for a Mock Turkey go
to Issue No.49 November 1943 …
"As we have so many of our American Allies in this country,
many of us are likely to celebrate a festival we have never shared in before.
The first Thanksgiving Day was held by the Pilgrim Fathers to give thanks for
their first harvest, and ever since that time the last Thursday in November has
been celebrated in the United States as a national festival and day of
thanksgiving. Here is a typical Thanksgiving Day menu:
Soup- Tomato and Croutons. Turkey or Chicken or Goose, Mock
Goose, Mock Duck. Cranberry sauce or jelly. Vegetables - Mashed Potatoes;
sprouts; chestnut puree or chestnut stuffing; celery (raw); carrot strips (raw);
salted nuts. Sweet- Pumpkin pie; mince pie; apple pie; biscuits.
Cream of Tomato Soup or Mock Bisque-2 cups raw, canned or
bottled tomatoes; 2 teaspoons sugar; 1/3 tea-spoon bicarbonate of soda ; 1/2
onion, stuck with 6 cloves ; sprig of parsley; bit of bay leaf; 1/2 cup stale
bread-crumbs ; 4 cups milk (household); 1/2 tablespoon salt; 1/8 teaspoon
pepper ; 1/3 cup margarine. Scald milk with bread crumbs, onion, parsley and
bay leaf. Remove seasonings and rub through sieve. Cook tomatoes with sugar 15
minutes (shorter time if canned tomatoes are used). Add soda and rub through
sieve. Reheat bread and milk to boiling-point, add tomatoes, butter, salt and
pepper. Serve 6 to 8.
Mock Goose (Ministry of Food).-1 lb. liver; 2 lb. potatoes;
2 onions or leeks; 1 apple; 3 oz. fat bacon; 1 dessertspoon chopped parsley;
1/2 teaspoon dried sage ; 1/2 pint water; seasoning. Wash liver and cut into
slices. Cut potatoes, onions and apple into slices. Arrange ingredients in
layers in a pie-dish or hot-pot dish. Cover with pieces of bacon. Add water.
Cover with a greased paper and cook in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Mock Duck (Ministry of Food) - Cooking time, 1 hour.
Ingredients-14lb. potatoes; 2 large cooking apples; 3/4 pint vegetable stock ;
1 tablespoon flour; pepper and salt; 4 oz. grated cheese ; 1/2 teaspoon dried
sage. Quantity- 4 helpings.
Method.-Scrub and slice potatoes thinly, slice apples, grate
cheese. Grease a fireproof dish, place a layer of potatoes in it, cover with
apple and a little sage, season lightly and sprinkle with cheese, repeat
layers, leaving potatoes and cheese to cover. Pour in 1/2 pint of the stock,
cook in a moderate oven for 3/4 hour. Blend flour with remainder of stock, pour
into dish and cook for another 1/4 hour. Serve as a main dish with a green
The American “biscuit” is more like a small muffin and is
used at breakfast, dinner or supper. A biscuit like our own is known in America
as a "cracker." American muffins are like our queen cakes in
American Emergency Biscuits (Ministry of Food)-3/4 lb flour;
2 teaspoons baking powder; 2 oz. margarine; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 3/4 cup milk.
Method-Mix flour, baking powder and salt together, cut in margarine;
add milk gradually until a soft dough is formed. Turn out on a floured board
and pat out with the hand to about 1 inch thick. Cut into rounds and bake in
quick oven for 15 minutes."
I haven’t included all the recipes just a selection if you
want to know more visit our online catalogue.
Photo: members of the WVS are providing wartime services for the welfare of American service personnel at a flat in Buckingham Gate, London. In the flat, a number of American service personnel, WVS members and ladies are being entertained by a recital of classical music that is being performed in the flat for them. WRVS/HQ/P/SWH/AMER002 1939-1945.
On Twitter the other day I
noticed a tweet from the Royal British Legion saying that Remembrance Day was
not just for the fallen but for those who have lived through conflict as well.
While Royal Voluntary Service’s blog on 10th November focused on
remembering the 245 WVS women who died during the Second World War, this week I
thought we’d look at how the WVS fought on the home front to keep everyone safe
When we think of evacuation we
often think of the process from escorting evacuees to the country side to
billeting them in the reception areas; we don’t think always think about the effects
on the householders and the relationship they had with evacuees. There are always
two conflicting view points on how evacuees where received by people in the
Evacuation broke down class barriers and
evacuees were received with love affection and treated as one of the family.
Ideas of class continued and evacuees were seen
as dirty or verminous and were mistreated by their hosts and hostesses.
There is truth in both opinions
and as our Archives show WVS were ready to smooth out any problems which arose
even from arrival they took care of evacuees cleaning them up and providing
clothing when needed. They also produced a number of publications which didn’t
take sides but advised everyone in the art of diplomacy or allowing for as one
leaflet was titled give and take. This was a leaflet designed to inform housewives
and visiting mothers on how to behave while relatives are visiting evacuated
children. It was a way of advising both parties without taking sides and helping
to easy worries and tensions; breaking down class barriers and dispelling
Another example comes from a
circular on advising householders on bed wetting stating ‘do not punish the child or do anything to humiliate
him and do not let him think he is a "problem" child and of special
interest’. Again WVS were trying to change public attitudes before bedwetting
was viewed as a dirty habit and the organisation worked towards changing this
view wanting people to see it as an effect of being removed from one’s home, a
result of a traumatic experience.
All the WVS’s hard work to bring communities together and
change opinions of town and country must have had an effect. By the end of the
war when it introduced its furniture scheme those areas which had been less
affected by the bombing were ready and willing to send tons and tons of
household items to blitzed areas. Also WVS was able to pioneer its Children’s
Holiday Scheme in Post-war Britain where children who would not have otherwise
had a holiday spent a week with a hostess family either by the sea or in the
So do remember while the men were away fighting to stop our
society changing for the worse over a million women on the Home Front were
working to transform it for the better.
The Archive & Heritage
collection was formed in 1958, the year before WVS’s 21st
Anniversary as the Archives and Central Records Department. The members of this
department’s first purpose was to search through files for important original
reports, letters, etc. to find those of historical interest and importance. I
truly sympathise with having to assess twenty years’ worth of material and
having to take key decisions which would affect future generations
understanding of the WVS.
The department started out with a
number of part-time works all with different tasks to complete and a Head of Department
to oversee them. It is funny how very little changes in 60 years, although a
little different with a full time Deputy Archivist and Archives Assistant
(working on the Hidden History of a Million Women Project), there is still an
Archivist and a team of volunteers who help out with the collection anywhere
from two hours to a whole day every week.
We don’t know very much about the
thoughts of the women first involved in bringing this invaluable collection
together, even though they knew there was ‘a real need for such a department’
in 1958, apart from what is written in the Annual Reports. However occasionally
when sorting through the collection something catches your eye; though it wasn’t
shinny and it didn’t look particularly interesting while repackaging the
collection of General Publications on Friday afternoon I came across WVS/WRVS Archives Notes for Guidance
1973 (there are also copies for 1975 and 1981).
This small booklet with a Green
front cover shows how over 15 years the thinking in the Archive was developing
and they were getting to grips with the records they held. They were there to
collate a complete library of papers concerning policy, operational works and
records of WVS/WRVS from 1938 onwards. At the end of the booklet they list all
the documents being kept in the Archive including Annual Reports,
Bulletin/Magazine, Miscellaneous Memoranda and Narrative Reports which with
many more documents, photographs, publications and objects still reside in the
collection today. What interested me most about this booklet was what it said
about Narrative Reports:
“A complete set of Narrative
Reports form all Regions is held in WRVS Headquarters Archives.
No Narrative Reports should be
destroyed without consultation, as arrangements for keeping them vary from
Region to Region”
This might explain why the number
of reports in today’s collection varies so much from region to region.